Hark the Vesper bell is pealing,
O’er the meadow soft and green.
Nearer now and nearer stealing,
Soft it breaks upon my ear.
Jubilate, Jubilate, Jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, Jubilate, Jubilate, Amen.
A Poem/Song: “I Knew This Place”, by David Mallett
Note: This song is about a special place and the impact of the place on David Mallett, the song writer. For us, it is also about a place most of us know deeply, and a place that has made a significant difference in our lives. You can find Dave Mallett singing the song on YouTube. (David Mallett, I Knew this Place) But the words will carry you back to camp even without the music. Here it is:
I knew this place, I knew it well,
Every sound and every smell,
And every time I walked I fell
For the first two years or so.
There across the grassy yard,
I a young girl runnin’ hard.
Brown and bruised and battle-scarred
And lost in sweet illusions.
From my window I can see
The fingers of an ancient tree.
Reaching out it calls to me
To climb its surly branches.
But all my climbing days are gone
And these tired legs I’m standin’ on
Would scarcely dare to leave the spot
Upon which they are standin’
And I remember every word
From every voice I ever heard,
Every frog and every bird,
Yes, this is where it starts.
A sister’s laugh, the sighing wind,
This is where my life begins.
This is where I learned to use
My hands and hear my heart.
This place is old, it carries on,
Like lyrics to an old time song.
Always changed but never gone,
This place can stand the seasons.
Our lives pass on from door to door,
Dust upon the wooden floor,
Feather rain and thunder roar,
We need not know the reason.
And all these thoughts come back to me
Like ships across a friendlhy sea,
Like breezes blowing endlessly,
Like rivers running deep
The day is done. The lights are low,
The wheels of life are turning slow.
And as these visions turn and go,
I lay me down to sleep.
First Words: On Sunday, July 19, had camp been open this summer, second session kids would be arriving in droves! Second session is the session that is most often chosen by girls who have never yet been to summer camp. It’s a shorter session and a perfect length to test out (and fall in love!) with Camp Betsey Cox! After lunch and during rest hour, first-year Muggie Leaders would be arriving in every cabin to meet their “little sister”, the girl each Muggie would check in with as the session passes. This first meeting is a tour of camp, a tour of this place that so many people love. For those of you who are returners, do you remember your Muggie Leader tour? Do you remember your introduction to the places that are camp? Places, like people, are so very important as we grow.
When first-year Muggie Leaders meet for the first time to begin thinking about making their morally-courageous speech, we begin with each girl recounting her most favorite place in camp. If you are a girl who has been at camp as long as most Muggie Leaders have been, you have a favorite place—maybe two or three, in fact. But your task at this morally-courageous practice session, is to focus on the MOST important place.
There have been an interesting array of answers to the question of a “favorite place”. As we think about the beginning of second session, in any summer, and of those tours that introduce new campers to the many special places around camp, let’s take a tour of a few of the favorite places about which Muggie Leaders have spoken. This Vespers is about place. It’s about a very special place. It’s about Camp Betsey Cox for Girls, just off Sangamon Road in Pittsford, Vermont.
Sing: “I Love To Go A-Wandering”
I love to go a wandering, along the mountain path.
And as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back.
Chorus: Valderi, valdera, valderi, valdera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Valderi, valdera, my knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream, that dances in the sun.
So joyously it calls to me, come join my happy song.
Oh, may I go a wandering, until the day I die.
And may I always dance and sing, beneath a clear blue sky.
THE FIRST SPECIAL PLACE:
Would you believe that many first-years name their bunk as their most favorite place in camp! Don’t you miss that cozy canvas bunk that seems to fold you in each time you settle in for the night. Your bunk holds you close! It keeps you warm! It gives you personal space even though there are seven or eight campers in the cabin. The Directors know how much you love your bunk! Returning girls have been known to show up on opening day even before breakfast is over, just to get the “right” bunk.
For its entire history, Camp Betsey Cox community members have slept on canvas bunks. Who needs a mattress when all you need is a sleeping bag, maybe a blanket, a good pillow, perhaps a favorite stuffed animal for company. (Alumnae have been known to voice surprise when they learn about the egg crate phenomenon! What?? Girls want something between their sleeping bag and the canvas? How could they??). Yes…bunk culture has changed, but really? Not that very much!
There’s a favorite camp song about sleeping in a bunk. Can you remember hearing it on the last night of camp each session? It’s a favorite for those unknown “hermits of song”. It’s called “Lord Blow the Moon Out, Please.
Sing: “Lord Blow the Moon Out, Please.”
Bed is too small for my tiredness.
Give me a hilltop with trees.
Tuck a cloud up under my chin.
Lord, blow the moon out, please.
Rock me to sleep in a cradle of leaves..
Sing me a lullaby of dreams.
Tuck a cloud up under my chin.
Lord, blow the moon out please.
Another Special Place:
After bunks, people report on a variety of places that are their personal favorite. But if you were on the new-camper tour, perhaps your next stop would be the library. That building is very special to a number of past campers as much as it is to current people. Why? Well…over ten years ago, working with Sangamon staff member, David Hyman (whose sister Liz is a long-time camp family member), designed and built this unique building. Stepping inside this apparently small cabin, you find four levels. The cabin is designed so that campers can find cozy spaces for quiet independent reading, writing or thinking as well as spots for small groups. When it was first built, campers with musical talents and people who were writers offered after-dinner soiree performances. Their audience included people without after-dinner jobs, and the front “yard” would be filled with eager listeners. In the summer of 2021 we will start those after-dinner treats once again! Start planning your soiree now!
Next time you are on site, you will notice some improvements at the library! Although the construction was nearly perfect, over time we have seen too many books falling off the shelves. Without campers here, the library, along with every other building, has been through a very close inspection! For the library, that has meant a couple of things. First, the shelves. Too narrow for too many books. Nurse Kathy Pominville, one of whose hidden talents is wood-working skill, has rebuilt the shelves. They are beautiful now and wide enough to hold each and every book. Kathy also scouted out new chairs so that the old, uncomfortable ones can add to the size of the second-session bonfire! Yael Goldstein, for her older-camper service project, built a table for the space. We hope that can be on full view when you return. And that old couch? There will be a replacement!
So if the library is your favorite camp space, you will enjoy it even more!
Lots of you say that the Betsey Cox garden is your favorite place in camp. That is understandable! Lounging on the Bird Mountain front lawn, you can see and feel some of the reasons. Almost always there’s a cooling summer breeze coming over the area. And the view? Vermont spreads out before you from the garden. Bird Mountain, that oddly-shaped mountain you can see from the garden, seems to stand guard over our part of the State. And then there’s the garden itself. Each person who settles in for a spell at the garden has helped create its glory. Cabin job wheels bring a person per cabin per morning down to the garden to support its growth. While there, especially during third session, weeders can enjoy a cherry tomato or two, or admire the morning glories that climb the arbor, or check out which zucchini will be the one selected for the annual “leave a squash on your neighbor’s porch” activity. There’s magic all around in any garden, and our camp garden is no exception.
Mary Oliver wrote a poem called “The Gardener”. This poem reminds us that gardens, places where growth and change can be observed daily, places where simple truths about caring for our planet, places of inspiration and happiness, are to be celebrated. Here’s her poem:
THE GARDENER by Mary Oliver
Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough,
have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with
Have I endured loneliness with grace/
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.
And One More…
Each and every activity at camp has people who are passionate about it. Think about it! When you structure your day each morning, do you find yourself making sure to get to one activity every single day? Do you always make it to crafts, camp craft, the farm, riding, the woodshop, archery, the weavery, tennis, Blueberry Hill Hotel drama? Almost every one has their favorites.
Which ever activity that is, there’s one special place in camp that almost everyone will get to, especially on the hottest of summer days. That place? You’re right….Burr Pond! Cooling water awaits, whether you experience it in your swim lesson or you’re there to perfect your canoeing strokes or to give paddle boarding a try. Maybe you’re just there to see if you can get a look at Jeffrey, famed turtle camp family member!
Whatever the reason, the pond is, for sure, one of the most magical places in camp. Don’t you love the feeling of diving in with the sweat from your recent riding lesson or your successful fire-building exercise rinsing off immediately. The pond refreshes all comers. Lots of people comment on how alive the pond is. The water lilies and other pond flowers rim the edges of it with color. The pond plants tickle your toes if you try to reach them. Further out, in the deep water, you can make a deep surface dive and feel the really cold water over the springs that keep the pond so cool during the warm summer days. The pond is fabulous!
And swimming is….well….magical, too! When you swim at the pond, you are adrift in another element, afloat with all cares washed away. An author named Rebecca Solnit captures why swimming is such a powerful experience. She writes, “ There is a seductiveness to water. From afar, it gleams and glistens, a shiny liquid jewel. It is inviting. It swirls, fans, and coalesces, embracing you. It holds you and yet cannot be held by you. When we immerse ourselves, something is awakened. It is as if eyesight has been turned on, or hearing. It is a vital new sense discovered.”
And beyond that….swimming at camp is just plain fun!! Remember how you “walked on water” on the blue mat? Do you remember the day you mastered the front crawl? Do you recall passing into a new swim level and having permission to explore the next-furthest-out water? All this is magic and the stuff of camp memories!
The pond. A very special place, indeed.
Sing: Zodiac! In a Vespers about favorite places, how could we leave out mention of our summer contra dances, with music provided by Steve Spensley and friends! The final dance of each contra experience is ZODIAC! Everyone floods out to the tennis court to shake a leg! Here’s the song! It will take you back to your favorite action on the court!
Here we go Zodiac, Zodiac, Zodiac,
Here we go Zodiac, all night long.
Step back, Sally, make a little alley,
Step back, Sally, all night long.
Here comes another one, just like the other one,
Here comes another one, all night long.
Well I looked over yonder, and what did I see?
A Great Big Man from Tennessee.
I’ll bet you five dollars that you can’t do this..
I’ll bet you five dollars that you can’t do that.
To the front, to the back, to the side, side, side,
To the front, to the back, to the side, side, side.
Camp Places Fill in the Blank:
Here you go everyone! Transport yourself back! See if you can fill in the blank to each of these questions that touch on favorite places all over camp!
- Beyond the gate, a magic view awaits. It’s ____________________.
- If you are lucky, you may see a blue heron in this special part of Burr Pond. The _________
- You are likely to go to this special place every afternoon. It is ______________.
- If you want to see some very special art work in a BC building, try _____________
- You might be jealous of the kitchen staff because they, and only they, can go to this special place ___________________.
- This special place is surrounded by beautiful bird houses built by you!_________________
- This special corner of a very special place is a room surrounded by gold. It is _______________________
- This special place is visited by every cabin on Wednesday nights. It is ___________________
- This special fire circle is on the lower level and it almost always has a night-time fire. It is _________________________
- This special place is pretty new at camp and helps you find your way in life. It is ______________________
Sing: “The Sun is Slowly Sinking Down” by James Taylor
This song reminds us that we will be back in all these special places, together again. We shared it with you all when we announced our closing of summer 2020, and we share it again, part way through the summer, and looking ahead to “another day” in 2021!
The sun is slowly sinking down.
And the moon is rising.
This old world still is spinning round.
And I still love you.
So close your eyes.
You can close your eyes, it’s alright.
I don’t know no love songs,
But I can’t sing the blues any more.
But I can sing this song, and you can sing this song,
When I’m gone.
Well I know there’s gonna be another day.
And we’re gonna have a good time.
Nobody’s gonna take that time away.
You can stay as long as you want.
So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it’s alright.
I don’t know no love songs,
But I can’t sing the blues any more.
But I can sing this song, and you can sing this song, when I’m gone.
Last Words: Along with special places, of course, there are very special people. This week, one of America’s very special persons passed on. John Lewis was an inspiration throughout his life. A civil-rights activist, he made a positive difference year after year, day after day, one might say, hour after hour. Here are some words he offered to us all. They are very special words from a very special person. We will miss you, John Lewis.
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light….Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates….Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won….Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally in peace with itself.”
Sing: Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.